The state of things
Sunderland returned from their trip to New York during the fixture break to a fresh bout of negative publicity as the club told ninety back-office staff their jobs were at risk and that half of them will be made redundant at the end of the season.
David Moyes' men should need little more motivation to up their game at Goodison Park than to demonstrate to supporters and employees of Sunderland AFC that they do care about what happens to this club.
Individuals in the squad also have personal reasons to ensure their collective raise their game at Everton. David Moyes has more motivation than most on his return to Goodison and new signings Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson have a point to prove to the club they departed in January. The likes of Jack Rodwell, Steven Pienaar and Joleon Lescott should also have enough insight and fire left in them to raise their teammates for a return to Merseyside where each of them had lengthy spells.
David Moyes was in front of the media this morning to preview the game and provide an update on how things are faring in the Sunderland camp. Here's the issues he addressed along with the usual smattering of stuff we would like to know but no one in the press thought to ask him.
1. Moyes thoughts on his return to Everton
It's the first time David Moyes has been back to Everton as Sunderland boss. He did make a return there during his time at Manchester United but it was hardly triumphant as his Red Devils were beaten by two goals to nil at Goodison in 2014.
With Everton under new ownership, Moyes hinted this latest return to Merseyside will see him find a different club to the one he left nearly four years ago:
I have incredible memories of Everton, but I also go back knowing I had a great chairman and great people around me.
Time has not warmed Everton supporter's memories of David Moyes decade-long tenure at Goodison Park. It will be interesting to see what welcome he does receive tomorrow and to find out if he feels criticisms of his reign on Merseyside remain valid. Not that anyone asked him, so we'll find out at 3pm tomorrow.
2. Sorry, but no bad thing that Pienaar is out
Steven Pienaar will not make the trip to Everton. The veteran midfielder who enjoyed two successful spells at Goodison Park is out injured.
And to be honest that's a relief. David Moyes has put too much faith in Pienaar at times this season - the latest example being the four-goal thrashing by Southampton last time out. Chasing the game and two goals behind by half-time, the Sunderland manager's answer was to introduce the South African who made little impact in the game.
3. Kirchhoff was never going to be ready but he and Cattermole soon will be
The sight of Jan Kirchhoff returning to full training in front of supporters during Monday's open day was a welcome one and David Moyes confirmed that the German midfielder has been on a mission to return to fitness all week.
But, the news that he won't be ready for the trip to Goodison Park is hardly surprising and in truth is no bad thing. Kirchhoff has been rushed back from injury already this season only to pick up a fresh niggle and with Sunderland's facing just three matches between now and the end of March, the classy German will be needed at full fitness come April once the fixtures start coming thick and fast again.
Moyes suggested Lee Cattermole's return to training has been hampered by an achille's problem but that this latest injury shouldn't affect his return date scheduled for April because Sunderland only have two fixtures in March anyhow.
No great surprises on Catts despite what the local media are saying about his latest 'set back'. No one had anticipated he would be back before the final set of games of this season regardless.
4. Pickford - will he play?
Moyes confirmed Jordan Pickford has a good chance of making a return to the starting eleven tomorrow but that as the manager he will "have a choice to make" over whether to start the young England goalkeeper or keep faith with Vito Mannone.
The Italian has been desperately inconsistent since he was restored to the side in December - swinging between keeping consecutive clean sheets to the shaky, indecisive 'keeper we witnessed last time out against Southampton.
5. Judgement will be cast on the New York trip at Goodison Park
The Sunderland boss defended the trip to New York which has been put in fresh context this week by the news forty staff at the Stadium of Light will be made redundant at the end of the season.
Moyes suggested that the four day mini-break did not disrupt training and that the players had still been put through their paces whilst in the Big Apple. However, he did hail the positive impact that having a change in routine has had:
I'd rather have been in the FA Cup, but we tried to use the time as well as we could.
It was a busy period over Christmas and New Year, so it was good to have a few days off, but we trained every day
The final judgement has yet to be cast as to whether public opinion concludes the trip was worthwhile, starting with tomorrow's game against Everton.
6. Moyes has it good here
On a day in which all attention is on Leicester City's sacking of their recent title-winning boss Claudio Ranieri, Moyes passed comment saying he was 'really disappointed'.
The Sunderland boss suggested the dismissal sets the bar for how much pressure managers are now under saying:
For managers now it's put in perspective that you can win the Premier League and you go three-quarters of the next season not doing so well and you can lose your job.
And when you consider that David Moyes is presiding over a side who are sat bottom of the table after three-quarters of a dismal season, and with the Sunderland boss apparently in no immediate danger of the sack, perhaps the Scot has it pretty good here.